Thursday, January 31, 2013

High Culture in Lower Manhattan

Eliogabolo, Gotham Chamber Opera, © Photo: Corey Tatarczuk

New York City: it is sophisticated metropolitan high life, and it is grimy, shrill street culture. It is martinis and heels, beer in a paper bag. Staid institutions and underground hot spots.

How do you capture, honor, serve the many facets and contrasts of the city? The Gotham Chamber Opera has achieved this goal without setting out to do so. Founder Neal Goren started the company in 2001 primarily as a vehicle to gain more experience on the conductor's podium. He managed to assemble a group of viable investors and began with the premise he has stuck to: Produce lesser-known works intended for more intimate spaces, and find a venue that is tailor-fit to the production.

Over the years, that has turned out to be just the right formula for the company, which has become an established fixture in the local music scene. The New York Times calls it the "pre-eminent small opera company in New York", and New York Magazine notes that the Gotham Opera Company "sets a sexy example for the city's scene."

"Sexy" is one of the first words that springs to mind when opera fans see the teaser for the company's upcoming production of Francesco Cavalli's "Eliogabalo". The three act opera, composed in 1668, invites the audience into the exclusive burlesque theater, The Box, on Manhattan's Lower East Side. The dinner theater and a handful of its alluring performers will transport the audience to the court and banquet hall of the decadent Roman emperor, Heliogabalus, whose lascivious ways are at the center of this tale.

For native New Yorkers, this performance is a chance to finally get a look at the inside of the The Box. For visitors to the Big Apple, it is a perfect event to combine the elegance of a night at the opera with the edginess and color of this fascinating city of contrasts.